Can lack of sleep make you ugly?

Can lack of sleep make you ugly?

Having discussed in our previous articles how sleep can negatively affect physical condition, performance and hormonal profile we today turn to something that may make you want to sit up and take notice, namely a study (1) showing sleep derived people are viewed as looking less healthy and attractive to those sleeping more.


Introduction: Sleep is commonly cited as being essential for being perceived more attractively by others but remarkably this has never been researched. Researchers from the Swedish Karolinska Institute set out to test whether a lack of sleep was associated with being viewed as more ugly.


Methods: The researchers used 23 men and women aged between 18 and 31. Subjects’ faces were photographed between 14:00-15:00 after a full night’s sleep of at least eight hours of sleep (23:00-07:00) followed by seven hours of being awake or after sleep deprivation where they were allowed just five hours of sleep (02:00-07:00) followed by 31 hours of sleep deprivation. The subjects’ photos were then assessed by a panel of 65 people who rated them for degree of attractiveness, health, and how tired the subjects looked. The panel had to give the people in the photos a score between 0 and 10 for attractiveness, tiredness and health.


Results: When sleep deprived, people were rated as less healthy (63 v 68), more tired (53 v 44), and less attractive (38 v 40) than after a normal night’s sleep. Compared to when the subjects had a full night’s sleep they were rated as 6% less healthy, 4% less attractive and 19% more tired. There was also a positive correlation shown between attractiveness and health with those rated as attractive more likely to be deemed to look healthy.

Conclusion: The researchers concluded that the negative effects of a loss of sleep are possible to detect visually via photos, with the likelihood that seeing tired people in a real life situation would likely lead to even a greater negative perception. The study group concluded that with even a minor loss of sleep leading to a negative effect on inflammatory markers that people have been conditioned by evolution to use facial health as a surrogate marker for assessing potential mates, with ugly/tired people being perceived negatively for this reason.


Our Comments

This study was interesting for being the first to show a loss of sleep being clinically validated as being associated with negative perceptions of people’s attractiveness. In the real world where being rated as being sexually attractive is such a priority in people’s minds, it leaves little doubt of the importance of sleep for maximising personal attractiveness.

For those who may struggle with sleeping enough, it is always worth remembering that other factors such as personality and interpersonal dynamics play at least as large a role as attractiveness when it comes to how you are viewed as a whole by other people. We are all familiar with relatively unattractive people batting above their average in this regard. When all else fails, don’t forget that if sleep duration cannot be maximised, you can still focus on sleep quality by focusing on achieving a faster descent into deep sleep.


Recommend Sleep Aids

1. Iforce Nutrition ZMA

2. Ronnie Coleman Resurrect-PM


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Author: Reggie Johal



1. Axelsson J, Sundelin, T, Ingre M, Van Someren E, Olsson A & Lekander M (2010) Beauty Sleep: Experimental study on the perceived health and attractiveness of sleep deprived people. BMJ 341

© 2012, Reggie Johal. All rights reserved.